Red Cross representative Cassidy Penney hugs Keystone Montessori students Gia DeAgostine and Zach Treglia after they and classmates presented the agency with nearly $1,800 they collected to help Texans suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Tonya Courtright/Special to AFN

Moved by the plight of Texans hammered by Hurricane Harvey, some of Ahwatukee’s youngest residents reached out to touch the victims last week.

Children ages 6 to 9 at Keystone Montessori collected nearly $1,800 for the Red Cross while St. John Bosco Interparish School students collected toys and other playthings for kids staying in emergency shelters in the hurricane’s aftermath.

Both groups of students were practicing what the schools teach as part of their curriculum.

“This is one of many service projects over the years,” explained Bosco first grade teacher Jena Gump. “Service to others is a huge part of our mission as a school. It’s even part of our mission statement.”

At Keystone Montessori – which champions “a lifelong commitment to give something back through service to others who are in need” as one of its main missions – teacher Tonya Courtright said her little pupils took an idea she advanced during a discussion about hurricanes in general and Harvey in particular.

Courtright said her students, who comprise the school’s “Great Horned Owl Classroom,” wanted to help the victims and that they “got right on it, decorating a box to be put in the office” after she suggested raising money for the Red Cross.

“I sent an announcement to the school, telling them what we were doing. We titled it ‘Small Change Makes a Big Difference,’ asking for any spare change that families may have laying around.

“The money started coming in, and the children emptied the donation box, brought the money to the classroom, sorted the coins and bills, and counted it. They gave the total to the office, and took a picture for the Keystone community. They did this for the next three days, giving the community a running total each day.”

A similar spirit took over Bosco students, who collected items for a food pantry run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society for needy families.

They rallied around an idea from the school’s student ambassadors and student council officers.

“They came up with the idea of doing toys, coloring books, stuffed animals, sports balls, crayons for the children who have been affected and may have had to leave items they love behind,” Gump explained, adding:

“They found out that many of the children in the shelters having nothing to do all day and wanted to bring them some hope and happiness. They decided to break it up into groups by grade, and even name it: Project Hope for Harvey.”

Gump leads the student ambassadors, who help with serviced projects, give parents school tours and welcome newcomers to Bosco.

With the help of Kelly Rafford and Pete Rodriguez, who are in charge of the student council officers, thestudents collected hundreds of items. They will be shipped to Dallas by the grandparents of some of the students.

“When they heard that the students came up with such a meaningful idea to help children, they said they wanted to get involved and take care of the shipping,” Gump said.

As for the students, she added, “They have worked so hard and really wanted to give some hope to kids affected by the hurricane.

The Keystone Montessori students presented $1,790.47 to Red Cross representatives Cassidy Penney and Christine Sorenson on Aug. 5.

The two Red Cross representatives visited the Great Horned Owls and explained the organization’s history and services.

Both women “were very impressed that this community came together in a short amount of time” to raise the money they did, Courtright added, stating:

“This was a great opportunity to incorporate many lessons…counting money, rolling coins, adding several large numbers together, on top of knowing they are helping those who lost everything in this disaster.”

Not all the help for Harvey victims involved only youngsters in Ahwatukee.

Janna Harris, pastry chef and co-owner of the Ahwatukee restaurant Fresko, has relatives who had to be rescued.

Harris’ mother asked a Houston firefighter what he and his colleagues needed to keepo their rescue efforts going and he said “protein.”

“My sister-in-law was a firefighter in the Air Force where she met Bill Morris, the rescuing firefighter. In the small world of social media, he and my mom, who lives in Oklahoma, became Facebook friends. She was in contact with him throughout the rescue efforts in Houston and wanted to know what she could do to help,” Harris said, adding:

“He asked for some cookies. My mom immediately went to work on it. From there, she told me, so we put the call out to our friends, family and patrons on Facebook. I know man can’t live on sugar alone, so I decided to broaden the search to snacks with a lot of protein.”

Harris and Fresko co-owner Kody Harris put out a call for protein snacks and collected 80 pounds of nuts, jerky and protein bars and drinks that were shipped to the fireman by Mailboxes and More on Chandler Boulevard and Desert Foothills Parkway, Ahwatukee.

“They haven’t received the package yet, but we let them know it’s on the way,” Harris said. “They were excited to know that their rescue efforts will be fueled with the generosity of the Ahwatukee community for the days and weeks to come.”


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